In all likelihood the next round in the Middle East will find Israel supporting the PLO in creating a Palestinian state. The pattern of events points unmistakably toward Jordan as the ''final solution'' to the Palestinian question.
If bold measures are not taken by the United States and the Arabs, then Israel will succeed in redrawing the Middle East map, not neccesarily to its own long-term interest.
Begin seized the Camp David opportunity to expand Israel and to secure its borders. Using negotiations over the Sinai and Palestinian autonomy as a cover, Begin and Sharon, by every means possible, quickly acquired title to over 33 percent of West Bank land. American aid would help pay for a fully planned series of settlements and military installations on the West Bank. The isolated Gaza Strip could wait. The northeast border was secured by formally annexing the Golan Heights and initiating efforts to coopt its Druze residents.
The Israeli invasion north into Lebanon had twin purposes. The first was to secure the northern border by having a friendly government in Beirut.
The second was to shift the PLO to a new politico-military base in Jordan. Dispersing the PLO and pushing them away from the West Bank demoralized the West Bank Palestinians. This gave Israel a political vacuum and hiatus in which to establish client Village Leagues among the now more pessimistic West Bankers. The Israelis want more control. It is a prerequisite for instilling an even greater sense of insecurity in the West Bankers which will encourage them to move to the East Bank, i.e., Jordan. Jordan, already a Palestinian state according to then Israeli Defense Minister Sharon, could be made one officially. A Palestinian state in Jordan would never exist as long as Lebanon remained the center of Palestinian politics. From Lebanon and the West Bank, Israel was delivering Palestine's new citizens and warriors.
Jordan, with over 60 percent of its population of Palestinian descent, remains the only area left for the PLO to use as a base to redeem its West Bank countrymen and land. Begin and Sharon predicted that the recent Palestinian National Council meeting in Algiers would opt for a diplomatic approach, for it was obvious that Arafat had to move quickly to stop Israeli acquisition and settlement of West Bank land. There was, after all, no military option for the PNC.
After a period of diplomatic obfuscation, Israel will convince the PLO that diplomacy is hopeless and that the PLO must create a military option. Israel will discredit moderate PLO strategy and reinforce the radical, militaristic approach. Target: Hussein.
King Hussein is aware of this Israeli strategy. His striving for negotiations with Israel to bring about a final settlement is not to recover the West Bank but to eliminate the danger to the East Bank. Hussein has requested greater US military aid. He knows that, unlike the situation in 1970, Israel would not assist him in keeping the throne but would stand by as the Palestinians seize it.
The question why Israel wants Jordan to be a Palestinian state has so far not been answered publicly. The answer, quite simply, centers on the fact that Israel cannot remain a Jewish state with more than 1.2 million Palestinians living and reproducing within its borders. The continuing repression of a 30 percent, high birth-rate minority would corrupt Israeli democracy, fracture its society, evaporate US aid, and drain the Israeli economy. (This number excludes the 476,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip who will remain, for a time, an enclave dependent upon Israel.)
But how would the overthrow of Hussein solve Israel's Palestinian minority problem? Jordan as a Palestinian state could be counted upon to provide sufficient provocation and legitimate justification through terrorism, shelling, and propaganda for a war of expulsion. Pushing the leaderless, disorganized ''enemy'' Palestinians before it, the Israeli Army could encourage a flight from the West Bank. Taking the designated escape routes would be the only safe path for the West Bankers. Security would be found only in their ''homeland.'' Israel would then accept US and UN calls for a cease-fire and withdraw.
Israel needs a Palestinian state. Those Palestinians who did not flee in the war of expulsion must have a homeland to go to. They absolutely must leave Israel. Once out, Israel would count on its heavily fortified Jordan River Line, reinforced over the past five years, to keep the Palestinians out for good. The Gaza Strip and access to the Islamic shrines in Jerusalem, one can speculate, would be offered to the new Palestine in exchange for a peace treaty.
The efficacy of Israeli strategy is that it does not look as if anything can stop it. When Arafat's diplomacy fails, George Habbash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other radical Palestinians can always be counted upon to follow Israel's script. Syria, remembering 1970, would back the PLO in its attack on Hussein but would be of limited help in the war with Israel later on.
Egypt, bound by agreements and, if necessary, deterred by an Israeli nuclear threat, could do little but sever relations. Egypt would also want to preserve its financial and military ties to the US. Saudi Arabia, worried over the Gulf, would gladly bankroll the Palestinians and the Soviets would gladly provide arms. Both measures of support would not alter the outcome.
The US, if it allows this inevitable pattern of events to unfold, would then have no options at all. The PLO, after overthrowing Hussein, using terrorism upon Israel, and filling the airwaves with immoderate language, would appear to be the aggressors to most Americans. And the Palestinians would have their state.
There is, of course, one problem. History does not stop. Forgiveness is a rare political virtue. What happens if the Palestinian state becomes settled and militarily strong? What happens when the Arab world obtains some semblance of order and possesses nuclear weapons? What happens when the American carte blanche to Israel ends?
The US can stop this drama or be a prisoner of events. All parties must be made to state publicly and clearly the constraints they see and what would satisfy them.